Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Advent 1.2.1: A Jordan River Baptism

I’d waited for nearly two years for Venus to reappear in the evening sky. I'd consulted all the texts and sky calendars online. I'd searched the web to try to pinpoint which part of the western horizon would be graced by it's glowing face.
Since last Venus appeared, I've watched Jupiter rise so early in the morning that no one in his right mind would make a regular viewing. Little by little, he rose earlier and earlier until he was not yet ready to set before the sky had grown dark enough to see him. In fact, a few months ago, he had made his way around the clock until just as the sun was setting, he was rising on the opposite side of the sky.
At about the time Jupiter reached mid sky at sunset, Venus began setting just after the sun, and each evening appeared just a little higher, as Jupiter continued in the early evening from east to west. At one point, just as the full moon rose at sunset, Jupiter stood directly in the middle of the southwest, while Venus followed the sun below the horizon. The sky was full of color and gradient, and lit in an arc by the moon and the two planets. Of course, one has to take in the entire sky to see this, and most people are unaware of the preparations for the display until all are in the same vicinity.
I’ve watched every clear evening (and during cloudy ones, made mental note of location) as Venus appeared slightly higher in the sunset and Jupiter moved slightly closer to the sunset. During this time, Jupiter has dimmed and Venus has brightened. The moon has waxed and waned, set with the sun, and rose as the sunset, until December began with a new moon and when it reappeared as a crescent in the sunset, Jupiter had made its way to Venus, and all three stood together falling toward the horizon.
Last night, Venus had moved slightly higher and Jupiter slightly lower so that they hung side by side until they disappeared below the horizon, Jupiter barely dimmer than the night before, and Venus ever so slightly more brilliant.
This will continue a few more nights until Jupiter bids farewell during an evening soon when the sun sets enough for us to see the waning light being welcomed at the far side of the lake. Perhaps if it is quiet enough, I’ll hear a small sizzle when he dips into the water.

I’ll be sad at the disappearance of Jupiter. The evening sky will be quite different. But I’ll be encouraged to know that it is meant to happen. And I’ll be encouraged to remember that Jupiter’s brilliant run across the sky was all alone until Venus appeared on the horizon many months later. I’ll remember that following Jupiter’s path for months in the evenings brought my eye westward little by little until the brighter planet appeared. I’ll remember that when they met, Jupiter was visibly dimming and Venus growing brighter. I’ll remember that glowing crescent moon above, appearing so pleased. I’ll remember the cloud formations that, though they appeared so beautiful, sought to block my view. I’ll remember that Venus shone through anyway moments before it disappeared into the wilderness over the horizon for a time.

I’ll remember that the moon followed it over the horizon.

And I’ll wait patiently for its reappearance just before dawn, and smile as it hides in the sunlight all day while moving across the sky until it has its shining moments, ever increasing, at sunset.